Mid-Week Details, 10.10

As the Everett Silvertips prepare for another “three-in-three” (it’s a test of endurance, focus, and sleep patterns) this weekend, their 3-3-0-0 record has them currently fourth in the U.S. Division (tightly packed, mind you), but also just six games into a 68 game slate.

That’s hardly enough to judge a team for a week, let alone for a full season.

Remember where the Tips were towards Halloween, last season: 4-9-1-0. Remember where they finished: playing hockey into mid-May.

Here’s where we’re at, halfway to playing hockey again on Friday (after five days off again):

  • Dustin Wolf has played in every minute of Tips action this season. He’s currently sixth in the WHL with a 1.68 goals-against-average and ninth with a .932 save percentage. For the questions on filling the shoes of Carter Hart, he’s off to a great start. Blake Lyda, who was impressive early on last season as an AP call-up, is also waiting in the wings.
  • Defensively as a whole, the Tips are showing good numbers already: sixth in the WHL for goals against average (2.3) and lowest in the league for shots allowed (25.0). They’re fourth in penalty killing (86.2).
  • No questions on the buy-in of the Silvertips captain. Well, really, as if you needed to question the buy-in of Connor Dewar? He’s leading the Tips with seven points in six games, has goals in four of the last five games, but also gave a pretty assertive answer in his usually confident, direct, but grounded tone of voice, to the dangers of players paying attention to personal stats:

 

“It’s the disease of ‘me’. It takes away from the team. Whenever you’re [getting consumed by statistics] it’s not good for you or anything.”

             Dewar helped lead the Tips to the Western Conference title and then was drafted by Minnesota in the third round of the NHL Draft one month later. That quote was from last night on the Silvertips Hockey Show. I also asked him about the best player on the team, nobody is talking about:

“Bryce Kindopp. He does everything for us, everything so well. He doesn’t get a lot of credit.”

  • Did you know: Kindopp hit the 20-goal mark last season for the first time in his career, and was one of seven Silvertips who did so. As a 19-year old this season, the challenge is on to look for more. He earned his second goal in as many nights last Saturday, a breakaway against Portland that unfortunately showed up as the only goal for the Tips in a 4-1 defeat (a game that was actually closer than the score indicated due to a pair of Joachim Blichfeld empty netters.)

I asked Kindopp about the breakaway goal, easy to unpack (a simple steal near the neutral zone, take-off, and deke) but also with complex layers of how the mental and physical side react:

            “I don’t who it was, a defenseman or forward [it was forward Jake Gricius] was bringing it across the blueline and I was seeing myself ready to make a play and poke the puck. I think was lucky getting a breakaway. From there I just used my speed, saw an opening and shot it.”

Kindopp said it’s a play that unfolds, once he has the puck, resulting in a combo of movements that develop form plenty of skill-building the Tips find useful at the end of practice. It adds to the arsenal.

  • Sean Richards update: in case you don’t see #15 in the next week and a half, he’s missing in action. The checking to the head penalty he was given (five minutes + game) at 14:02 of the third period last Friday resulted in a five-game suspension. He retroactively served his first game on Saturday vs. Portland, and is eligible to return during the six-game eastern swing, Oct. 21 at Regina.

 

 

COVERAGE:

  • Friday at 7pm (KKXA 1520 AM / 101.1 FM / Tips App)
  • Saturday at 6:30pm (KRKO 1380 AM / 95.3 FM / Tips App)
  • Sunday at 4:30pm (KRKO, same as above)

 

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

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DAY 3 // Everything Coming Together


We’ve got a training camp champion, we’ve got more read on prospects, we’ve got stories.

5 takeaways from day 3:

  1. RUN AND GUN: Team Green cruised to an 8-1 victory in the bronze medal game at bright and early, 8:15am. Several contributors hit the scoreboard, which featured goals from the dazzling (Brayden Morrison) to the simple. Team Green was everywhere.
  2. DEWAR IN RED: You surprised the Tips captain was behind a 2-1 gold medal, Volunteer Cup win? Team Red, despite a series of masterful saves by Braden Holt, trailed 1-0 with goaltender Blake Lyda wheeling in the second half. Dylan Anderson knotted the game on a jaw-dropping, never-quit, highlight reel goal. It gets better. Connor Dewar, who reportedly said on the ice, “we’re not going to overtime, boys”, came through on his promise. He earned the winner on a snap shot off an end zone face-off and Team Red preserved the one goal victory. Not bad to start off the season as captain.
  3. MORE MORRISON: Brayden Morrison is a budding 16-year old prospect back for his second trip to Silvertips training camp, drafted in 2017. The NHL bloodlines are thick. His father, Brendan, was a star center for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2000’s, teaming with linemates Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi to form the “West Coast Express.” Both are in camp with the Silvertips – Brayden as a player, Brendan as a coach. The latter has another connection: Brendan played in the BCHL for Tips GM Garry Davidson. So yes, we have a full interview and feature coming later: everything from Brayden’s time on ice with the Washington Capitals as a youngster, watching Alex Ovechkin, to Brendan’s hilarious ode to Naslund and Bertuzzi.
  4. ROOKIE GAME RUNAWAY: So how about the Stanick twins? Brothers Sloan (Tips draft pick in 2018) and Slade (camp invitee) were a part of a show-stealing effort in Team White’s 6-3 victory. The more the game progressed, the more they were confident with the puck. They took advantage of gaps. They got into prime scoring areas. They had an ear-to-ear grin after the game – it’ll be one they won’t forget for a long time.
  5. HOLT(ING) THE FORT DOWN: Get to know Braden Holt, taken by the Tips in the 2018 Draft, in this conversation below. He looked incredibly sharp in camp. As a U.S.-born goaltender, he’s jumped around with family from Montana, to Colorado, and Michigan to reach the next level. He’s as well spoken as Mom and Dad. Nothing got by him (13 saves) in his Rookie Game appearance. He spoke more below, before heading out to dinner in downtown Everett with family:

 

Green vs. Grey Game on Sunday: 1:30pm.

CAMP ENTRY // Day 2, Speeding to This Day


Day 2 of Everett Silvertips training camp is no different: the first day of “school” is out of the way, the pleasantries are in the past, and everyone is down to business from the first drop of the puck not to far away from dawn.

By dusk, everyone has a better indication of who’s made their big push for a roster spot, and what teams we’ll see in a competitive environment.

Two games have turned into four, and we’re set for a Volunteer Cup showdown (given to the scrimmage champion) and Rookie Game at 4:45.

Here are five things from the day:

  1. IMPORTED, GOOD (TO GO): Peter Melcher suited up for the first day of training camp on Friday, amazingly after getting off the plane on Thursday following 48 hours of straight travel from Europe. He is amazingly fluent in English too, previously taking a course last season. He’s now trilingual, and fluent in Czech, English, and Russian.
  2. THE OTHER ONE?: That would be Martin Fasko-Rudas, you all know about him, and he’ll get into downtown Everett on Saturday.
  3. BRYCE YOURSELVES: Bryce Kindopp had a hat trick in one scrimmage game on Friday, and by the time I was able to get along the glass for a taste of Team Red’s scrimmage in the morning, 10 seconds later he popped in a Connor Dewar centering pass from the mid slot.
  4. WALKER WEIGHS IN, WEIGHS DOWN: Kyle Walker is one of many Tips who committed to a rigid workout program in the offseason, and the result is a more lean and trim defenseman who dropped 15 pounds since clean-out day, a little over three months ago. Walker attributed the achievement to a restrictive diet, limiting the amount of grain carbohydrates (read: bread, spaghetti, other traditional pasta) for his daily intake and loading up on proteins, vegetables, and fruit.
  5. THE CAPTAIN WEIGHS IN: Connor Dewar (with another year to go after a 38-goal campaign and NHL Draft selection in Minnesota) sat down after day two.

 

See you in the seats for day 3. Rookie Game at 4:45pm.

CAMP ENTRY // Day 1, Speeding to This Day


DAY 1 – ANGEL OF THE WINDS ARENA (Thursday, Aug. 23) 

Well, did we all have a good offseason?

It was short, needless to say.

So short, it was the shortest in franchise history.

Since the Silvertips – entering this season as defending Western Conference champions – left for the calmer pastures of summer following the WHL Championship Series, to the point of getting back on ice, the short summer lasted a little under a minuscule 100 days. That’s a compact amount of time, say, if you’re Connor Dewar, Riley Sutter, Wyatte Wylie, or other Silvertips going through the NHL development camp process, competing in summer tournaments, or working to bulk up or get faster.

Hey, there’s not a lot of time to get bored.

For Silvertips fans, the short offseason is something of a treat. Hockey is back in the blink of an eye.

For day one of camp, here are five things from Thursday:

  1. What’s new: A.O.T.W. Arena and Silvertips home ice got a slight makeover during the offseason. A brand new, “NHL style” plexiglass system has been installed, accompanied by necessary dasherboard upgrades. The Silvertips (like several other teams) have long used tempered “seamless” glass for years – mainly along the side boards with more flexible plexiglass behind the net (where a majority of thunderous checks occur), but the current system in place strikes more of a balance to accommodate player safety, and maintain optimal sightlines for fans in the first few rows. The new system includes a curved “turnbuckle” beside the players bench, first introduced by the Vancouver Canucks seven years ago and later mandated for every NHL venue. It’s now standard across the WHL starting this season.

    2. Dipping the toe in the water: Thursday introduced four games on the Silvertips training camp schedule, continuing Friday until a “scrimmage champion” is crowned by late Saturday afternoon in the Volunteer Cup. Team Blue rocketed out to a 5-0 victory in the early game, and the Red squad edge Team Grey, 4-2 by the end of the early afternoon game (of note: Dawson Butt, Riley Sutter, Jameson Murray, and Jake Christiansen each scored of the returning players), with promising 16-year old defenseman Dylan Anderson bagging a goal along with brother Carter. It’s premature to make conclusions on any prospect through Day 1, but the always insightful Nick Patterson offers a more concentrated look from The Herald.

(Of note, among the new faces – but with a familiar name – is overage defenseman Sahvan Khaira. Built like a tank at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and not too far off from brother Jujhar, Sahvan was on the other side only 3 months ago with Swift Current, battling the Silvertips for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. I asked Sahvan tongue in cheek, “but let’s be real, it isn’t that funny, is it?” He returned the reply with a slight grin, “no, no not at all.” The Khaira only live hours away in B.C., which means possibly more of their warm visits soon.)

3. Chat of the day: Riley Sutter, three months removed from WHL Championship Series experience and two months removed from the draft as a new Washington Capitals prospect. He entered last season fresh off a summer of rigid skating drills, and went right back to the well again this past offseason. His summer was a “whirlwind.” More below.

4. Guest coaches: A chance to give additional hockey minds of Silvertips hockey operations a chance to lead the way behind the bench, several Silvertips scouts and even a pair of NHL alumni are gracing the bench. Brendan Morrison, among many teams a famous Vancouver Canucks alumnus (remember the Naslund/Bertuzzi years?), is behind the bench for Team Red, while Pacific Northwest native Turner Stevenson (a Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey in 2003) is behind the bench for Team Blue and also smoothly runs the Silvertips Elite and U16 programs during the winter months. Amazingly, their careers overlapped and both involved the Devils, but they were never teammates.

5. Arena information: As a reminder, all scrimmages, including Saturday’s Rookie Game and Sunday’s Green vs. Grey Game are free. Doors will open 15 minutes before each scrimmage, and 45 minutes before the Rookie Game and the Sunday 1:30pm finale. A.O.T.W. Arena will offer Team Store accessibility for those in attendance looking for a shopping trip, while general admission seating is available in the lower bowl behind the team benches.

As I maneuver around from spot to spot, I hope to bump into you.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

SEASON WRAP-UP: Simply Unforgettable.


Nobody wanted this unforgettable season to end.

All you need to know about the Everett Silvertips, their commitment, and their passion:

On the plane ride up to Swift Current for Game 1 of the Rogers WHL Championship Series, the Silvertips boarded a charter aircraft containing a 105-seat, 21-row set up. There’s plenty of space to spread out.

By the middle of the flight, all players voluntarily congested toward the middle rows, playing cards and just enjoying the sheer element of brotherhood.

Then at the end of Game 6, while the Silvertips slowly decompressed out of the 22-game postseason, there were players sitting in the stalls refusing to take off their gear.

One instance: as long as 45 minutes.

Let that sink in, and understand how it’s completely symbolic of a team that willed its way out of a 4-9-1 hole before Halloween and soared to the U.S. Division title, Western Conference, two wins away from the Ed Chynoweth Cup, and were sill playing hockey into the middle of May.

These Silvertips, indeed, were something special. Their exploits will live forever in the memory banks.

Among the highlights:

  • The Comeback in Kennewick:it was like 2004 in Kelowna, Game 7 in overtime, all over again. It was Jeff Schmidt back then. This time, it took six games for the Tips to reach the Western Conference title, but still answered the bell in overtime to author, to date, arguably the greatest win in Silvertips history. It was eventually Kevin Davis’ turn. Down 5-2 in the third period against the host Tri-City Americans, with time running thin, the Silvertips refused to wilt and sparked the legendary rally on a Connor Dewar goal at 9:52.

Then after Davis blasted a one-timer by Patrick Dea for a 5-4 deficit with 6:07 left, it was “go time.” On the very next shift, Garrett Pilon willed his way to the net and muscled the tying goal through Dea’s five hole to cap off a three-goal comeback in 4:37.

The Tips almost put it away in the last two minutes of regulation and nearly won it in the first two shifts of overtime. Then, on a power play, Davis uncorked a one timer from the high slot which shot the Tips to the Western Conference championship, and spilling off their bench into a playground of emotion along the Toyota Center ice surface. Cap it off with the return to downtown Everett at 3am, before a hoard of Tips fans fully decked out in team apparel in the middle of the night, and it’s a night we’ll never forget.

(Side note: stick tap, Tips voice alumnus Keith Gerhart. Now, I know exactly how it felt in ’04.)

  • Smashing records all over the place: This was the obvious promise to results path of the Dennis Williams effect, and it didn’t take long to connect with the Silvertips. They had four 30-goal scorers and seven different 20-goal scorers for the first time in franchise history. They scored a franchise record 246 goals in the regular season. They were third with a shade less than four goals per game in the playoffs. Connor Dewar became the youngest Silvertip to hit 38 goals (which led the team this year) for a season, while he, Riley Sutter, and Wyatte Wylie reached NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for the upcoming draft. Williams, a career .673 win percentage as a coach in seven seasons before taking the Tips reins, set a new record for most wins by a first year Silvertips head coach (47) and was named Western Conference Coach of the Year. Mitch Love’s defensemen didn’t skip a beat: they helped the Silvertips lead the WHL in fewest goals allowed per game in for the third straight season, while ranking fifth or better in the last five consecutive seasons.

 

Patrick Bajkov became the Silvertips all-time leader in points, goals, and the first Silvertip to produce 100 points in a season.

Carter Hart, the first in Silvertips history to earn the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy (WHL Player of the Year), carried out Ron Hextall’s challenge to be “the best player at the major junior level regardless of position.”

  • Growth and coming of age: There may not be a trio like Kevin Davis, Matt Fonteyne, and Bajkov for a long time. Enjoy the fact you got to watch them play hockey together at an unparalleled level of durability. They all finished their Silvertips and WHL careers combining for over 1,100 games, and are now top three, all-time (led by Davis) in Silvertips career games played.

Bajkov turned his storybook season into an open door for the future, signing a well-deserved three-year, entry level contract with the Florida Panthers.

Fonteyne turned his career best season into an open door for the future, and still retains a fork in the road. His American Hockey League contract with the San Jose Sharks affiliate, the Barracuda (who play in the same building at SAP Center), allows him to explore the opportunities at a high level. Since his contract is an AHL pact (instead of the NHL), Fonteyne is allowed to retain the right to attend school at the university level after next season and pursue a formal degree.

Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) and Ondrej Vala (Dallas Stars) came as advertised following the whopping trade shortly before the deadline with Kamloops. They’re eligible to turn pro next season, which would be their overage year. If this is it, they left an undeniable impression at how much their value impacted the Silvertips down the stretch.

PILON BEFORE TRADE: 44 points in 39 games, +5

PILON AFTER TRADE:  36 points in 30 games, +17

VALA BEFORE TRADE: 20 points in 31 games, +3

VALA AFTER TRADE: 8 points in 28 games, +14

Pretty much, Pilon produced at the same exact rate from his time as a top line forward with the Blazers, to one of many high impact players the Silvertips had at their disposal. He was also the leading Silvertips scorer in the playoffs with 28 points in 22 games. While Vala’s offensive numbers were reduced in the regular season, the bulky and rangy 6-foot-4 defenseman’s plus minus spiked by 11 after joining the Tips, and he had 11 points in just 22 playoff games, while ranking tied for third in WHL Playoffs plus-minus (+11).

As for Hart? This is a bonafide legacy. Should this be it for him, he exits as the Silvertips all-time leader in goaltending wins (116) and shutouts (26) – the latter tied the WHL all-time record. Not just as the first Silvertip to win the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, he also became the first back-to-back-to-back winner of the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL Goaltender of the Year) in WHL history. This is a league that once had Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Chris Osgood, Devan Dubnyk, Martin Jones, Cam Ward, Mike Vernon, and Grant Fuhr pass through. Let that sink in.

  • Success at the box office: Non-hockey (on ice) topic, but essential for the experience. The Tips had their biggest regular season draw at the gate in six seasons, and were third in WHL Playoffs attendance. Games against the Seattle Thunderbirds, stretch drive season opponents, special events (i.e. Pink The Rink) and critical or elimination playoff games (i.e. Game 5) either sold out or came close to sellouts at the 8,149-seat downtown Everett venue, which still shines like a diamond on the corner of Hewitt and Broadway.

There are people in this line of work, from other cities, who routinely visit and still remark, “it’s as good, if not better than some buildings in the American Hockey League.”

But far and away, those who fill the seats make are critical to keep that atmosphere alive. And they packed it out.

The one thing I learned as I took this job three years ago, 2004 is forever, and to this day the cast of characters from that team remain living legends around here.

Now, the legends talk have two of a kind. For a 2004, there’s a 2018. For a Jeff Schmidt, there’s a Kevin Davis. For a Kelowna, there’s a Tri-City.

For one great memory logged in history, we gained a new great memory to file away.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton has served three seasons as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

STATS! The Tips Record Setting Night


With one more day to enjoy an 11-0 win from last night in Langley, then put it behind them once the puck drops for a 1pm practice in downtown Everett, the Everett Silvertips entered Thursday saturated with season highs, tied records, and outright franchise records.

We’ve romanticized over the names of Peter Mueller, Shane Harper, Tyler Maxwell, etc. for a long time. On Wednesday evening, the 2017-18 Everett Silvertips joined them in the record books on a collective effort.

If you’re wondering where last night stood in Tips history:

  • MOST GOALS (game): 11, broke the record set in 2009-10 (last, Oct. 11, 2009 vs POR)
  • MOST GOALS (period): 5, tied the record last set 11 days ago vs. POR
  • LARGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY: 11, broke the record set in 2006-07 (9, Jan. 26, 2007 vs POR)
  • MOST GOALS (game, one player): 4, Riley Sutter, tied record (last set in 2015-16, Remi Laurencelle vs. Spokane on Dec. 16)

If you’re wondering how close the Tips came:

  • TO MOST POINTS BY A PLAYER: 2, Sutter and Connor Dewar (2g-3a) needed those to tie Zach Hamill and Dan Gendur’s shared record of 7 in a game, both set Jan. 26, 2007 vs POR.
  • TO FASTEST 3 GOALS: 2:05 (they needed to do it quicker in that time frame, saying this tongue-in-cheek). They blasted 3 goals in 3:28 to run away with the game in the second period on Wednesday night (Sutter, Richards, Centazzo) and build a 7-0 lead. The Tips got 3 goals in 1:23 last season by Dominic Zwerger, Eetu Tuulola, and Kevin Davis on Nov. 15 vs. Calgary.
  • TO THE LEAGUE RECORD FOR GOALS IN A GAME: 8 goals. Believe it or not, they barely got past halfway there. Spokane (the Ray Whitney & Pat Falloon team) and Medicine Hat (the Mark Lamb & Murray Craven team) each buried a whopping 19 goals to set the league record, 90-91 and 83-84 respectively.
  • TO THE LEAGUE RECORD FOR GOALS IN A PERIOD: 6 goals. They needed 11 alone in a 20-minute frame to tie the record set by the Kamloops Blazers on February 7, 1992, in a 13-1 win over the Tacoma Rockets. The Estevan Bruins originally set the mark on January 22, 1967, in a save-optional, grind-it-out 18-2 win over the Calgary Buffaloes.

Bottom line: it’s hard to score goals. What the Everett Silvertips did Wednesday night was nothing short of remarkable.

Now it’s onto Friday night, when they get Vancouver again in downtown Everett.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is in his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

And Then There Were Four (with Thank Yous)

Let me tell you a story about the most stressful month of my career. Maybe, my life.

It began with uncertainty and unpredictability, and ended with euphoria.

And an addition to our family.

Starting mid-November, the Silvertips were set for a two-game road trip against the Prince George Cougars, a destination nine-and-a-half hours away from Everett – not just where the Silvertips play, but also the residence of (what was) my family of three – including my wife, nearly full-term pregnant. As it was her second pregnancy, medical expertise suggested our baby boy to be would possibly come early.

Six hours into the trip (we stopped in Kamloops, overnight, en route to Prince George), my wife begins feeling contractions.

She asked me home, anticipating possible labor. Home I went.

No labor.

We went through the next week with four games in five days, phone and back-up announcers ready.

No labor.

The week of Thanksgiving was beyond unpredictable. I stayed home from Tri-City with the pass presenting treacherous conditions (and 3.5 hours of a return drive – minimum – risking my return too late for our son’s birth). Then on Friday vs. Spokane, Amy was admitted to the hospital with a medical emergency – another condition that likely accelerates labor.

No labor.

Saturday vs. Vancouver: maybe the scariest day of my life.

(No labor, either).

Without presenting the details to ensure the privacy of my firstborn son down the road, a serious medical emergency pulled me away from game preparation at 12:15pm. Lukas needed to go to the hospital, and he needed all of us there, within the family. One check-out at 3:30 pm sent him home after the scare. Another check-in was necessary at 7:05pm at Providence Medical Center, and we finally went home for good at 10:00pm – just over the same length it took for the Tips to defeat Vancouver, 5-2.

We reached Amy’s due date this past Tuesday, the same night as the Silveritps Hockey Show.

No labor.

The next day was our preferred induction date, but then were told by medical professionals that labor inducing needed to wait until Monday, Dec. 4 unless Amy was thrown into another serious medical condition.

Well, we didn’t have to wait long though. It was finally “go time” on Thursday morning.

Labor.

Upon check-in at Providence Medical Center, Liam safely entered the world.

We could prepare for so much that would surround the big day, but the journey there was nearly unpredictable. This is where “life happens.”

My passion for the broadcast booth and the nightly enjoyment of Silvertips fans wanted me in there each and every game, but in a world where many of us live by the mantra “family first,” I needed to be there as a Dad – first and foremost.

That’s why as the Benton clan has grown to four, I couldn’t get back into the broadcast booth, full swing without giving big thank yous:

  • Dan Todoroff: Tips in-arena emcee, and day-job as director of operations, for taking on the brave task of two games filling in for play-by-play – and two more in a color analysis role.
  • Dave Sheldon: The former full-time Tips color analyst, and Chilliwack radio voice, for filling in the two games at Prince George when we had a false alarm. He’s a pro.
  • Countless members of the front office: Katrina Koontz, Nicole Proulx, Joel Anderson, Sarah Roetcisoender, Kelsie Noble, Zack Bradford, Staci C. to start. In the light of an absence from work, they were willing and embracing of the possibility to help fill in the gaps behind the scenes.
  • Zoran Rajcic: Our fearless boss, who communicates the importance of “family first,” and allows people to focus on those responsibilities when the needs arise. He demonstrated incredible patience and heartwarming empathy. He’s a tremendous boss.
  • Extended family: Grandfather Bob VanderWal, Grandmother Lavonne VanderWal, Brother-In-Law Jason VanderWal – for agreeing to move the arrival date up a few days from California to help with the final stages of pregnancy and family responsibilities attached to the big event.
  • The Team: For the congratulations, asking with interest how the baby and Mom were doing, and even an appreciated invite to bowling. It helped take the mind off a lot of things.
  • You, dear listener: For being flexible when I projected a return to the booth after absence, and it stayed in a continuous “day-to-day” status.
  • Lastly: my wife, Amy … she’s a warrior (no epidural for either delivery), she’s understanding of my responsibilities, and she’s not afraid to ask when she needs the extra help.

Thanks for keeping your ear to the dial with the names above helping fill the gaps, and for your patience with my return to the booth. I was thrilled to be back for Teddy Bear Toss – the 999th game behind the hockey mic in my career.

(#1,000 will be Wednesday night vs. Portland.)

More importantly – family is happy and healthy. The tears of joy that flooded my face when Liam arrived felt like the size of Puget Sound.

About the little guy? He’s strong, a tad quieter than Lukas, but already has Mom and Dad in his physical features.

Can’t wait to bring Amy, Lukas, and Liam to a game near you.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is in his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

CAMP ENTRY: Breaking Out of the Shell


[** Update: we’ve been informed the Rookie Game will now start at 5:30pm. Plan accordingly. Admission is free.**]

FRIDAY: By the time [*goal*] you finish [*goal*] reading this [*goal*], our hope is [*goal*] you’ll be more [*goal*] informed [*goal*] and entertained.

[*goal*]

Sorry, had that 3pm Blue vs Grey scrimmage stuck in my head.

Blue won, 8-5. Spoiler alert: Matt Fonteyne and Orrin Centazzo (10 points in camp) each had three points.

More nuggets coming along from Friday, but for now, here is where everything stands for the scrimmage chapter of training camp:

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 6.13.51 PM

The Tips Rookie Game is 5pm on Saturday, followed by the 1:30pm Green vs. Grey Game on Sunday. As a reminder, for games at XFINITY Arena, admission is free. It may be said “the best things in life aren’t free,” but you can never go wrong with free hockey.

Among the developments from today:

  • Team Blue leads with a +5 goal differential and has buried 18 goals in 3 games. While you can’t place 100 percent stock into training camp, like a baked good that’s only been in the oven for 30 seconds, the names down the line bear little to no surprise this is happening: Fonteyne, Centazzo (as articulated above with a whopping 10 points), Dawson Butt, ’17 second rounder Jackson Berezowski, Conrad Mitchell, and former Red Deer Rebel Quinn Martin. Jake Christiansen is the elder statesman on the blueline.
  • Team Grey isn’t too far behind with 16 goals in the 3 games. Patrick Bajkov, Ethan Browne, Connor Dewar, prospect Brayden Morrison, and defenseman Montana Onyebuchi are among the notables still in the hunt for the prospect round robin title. There really hasn’t been one shift I’ve seen, involving Bajkov/Dewar/Browne where something HASN’T happened.
  • We had more conversations with notable Tips prospects that you could be hearing from in the future. One fun did you know: BC native (and ’17 draftee) Kent Johnson goes back as family friends with Ryan Johansen (Portland) and Lucas Johansen (Kelowna). The games of shinny have been few and far between recently, for obvious reasons, but a strong WHL connection still remains intact.

 

Browne stopped gracefully to say a few words into the recorders of mine and (Everett Herald) Jesse Geleynse:

  1. QUESTION: How productive was this summer?

BROWNE: Really good, I got stronger, that helps. It’s good to be back with the boys.

  1. QUESTION: You were up and down with the team a couple of times last year. How did that help heading into this year?

BROWNE: It showed me how to play systems, the league, and it’s a lot different compared to midget.

  1. QUESTION: What’s the biggest difference from midget to this level?

BROWNE: It’s more passive with regards to the forechecks: there’s only one guy forechecking so you have a lot of time when you’re in your own zone. (Reporter: patience with the puck, the better) Yes, that’s my skill – patience with the puck.

  1. QUESTION: How was the summer with regards to getting ready for your rookie year?

BROWNE: Just working out every day, I went to morning shinny at 5am (Reporter: you’re a morning person!) Sometimes.

  1. QUESTION: Have you talked with Dennis Williams as far as your role for this year, or is it too early for that?

BROWNE: It’s too early for that. I still haven’t talked to him because we’re still early in camp.

  1. QUESTION: How often do you keep in contact with fellow members of your draft class, like Mark Liwiski?

BROWNE: I’m actually very good friends with Liwiski. I talk to him every good day, we’re good pals.

  1. QUESTION: What do you like most about his game?

BROWNE: Oh – he’s physical, aggressive, likes to get in your face. He can probably fight too.

  1. QUESTION: Anybody else you watched last year or seen this year that you’re looking forward to playing with?

BROWNE: Well, I went to school with Conrad Mitchell in eighth grade. He’s crazy good now. He’s fast, it amazed me seeing him play. We went to school at Vimy Ridge Academy (in Edmonton, Alberta).

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is entering his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

CAMP ENTRY: Day 2, Painting the Canvas.


START PAINTING THAT CANVAS

There are three games, nearly 100 players, and about roughly 12 hours to cover in a full day.

Welcome to training camp, the most wonderful time of the year.

What’s appreciated is seeing the rapid progression and evolution of the developing human frame that’s suited to fit in major junior hockey equipment.

Connor Dewar’s bigger. Orrin Centazzo is bigger (and faster). Conrad Mitchell, signed but yet to play in a WHL game, looks as tall as a light post on skates (and he can move).

Ethan Browne, another Tips blue chipper, is more slick. Bajkov, Davis, and Fonteyne are up to their old tricks.

It’s enough progression to make any hockey centric mind salivate. Proof: the Tips typically bring in catered goods from Major League Pizza, El Paraiso, and Jersey Mike’s for the world class wrecking crew of hockey scouts. All the leftovers were cleaned out today by 11:30am.

Other observations that stuck out, from the moments where I could relax and lay eyes on the developing play:

  • Browne, as mentioned above, never missed a tape-to-tape pass. He had one goal in the morning session that was a complete roof job, and his decision making off the rush (read: patience with the puck) resembled a savvy vet.
  • This year’s first rounder, Ronan Seeley: also looking like a solid gem on the blueline, using his skating ability to deliver pucks out of his own zone in rapid fashion. Also chipped in with a goal that was deflected off traffic from the point. Some point to his skill foundation and mutter, “Kevin Davis.” That’s good.
  • There were three plays by Centazzo that made me drop my jaw. First was a breakaway goal, backhand deke, executed from a high rate of speed off the rush. Then there was the thread-the-needle pass to Quinn Martin on a 2-on-1 goal, then there was a low snapper off the rush from the right circle. Centazzo is fully healed, and ready to go.
  • Brendan Morrison (NHL vet, with plenty of stories to share) and son, Brayden (Tips prospect, in camp) are both extremely articulate. We’re putting this story and conversation into video form. Look for more soon.

Before shuffling off to Everett Memorial Stadium to get a tutorial from Dennis Williams and Mitch Love on how to appropriate throw a baseball (yours truly had a little league career high of 3-for-23 one season), I caught up with Connor Dewar.

He’s fresh off Toronto Maple Leafs development camp, too.

  1. MIKE BENTON: How was the summer?

CONNOR DEWAR: Very good, hung out with buddies and family. Spent a lot of time training.

  1. MB: How much more compared to years past?

CD: I took it more seriously I think. Going into camp with Toronto there were a few things I picked up and applied to how I’m training today.

  1. MB: How faster is the game in that environment?

CD: It was pretty fast, scrambled. Different game than what I’m used to.

  1. MB: How much did you understand what it takes to be on the right track to the pro level?

CD: Just that everything matters. You have to take care of yourself, work hard every day, and do something every day to get better.

  1. MB: What kind of goals have you set for this year, and how much weight have you put on?

CD: Just play one game at a time, and do the best I can. Officially I put on 5-6 pounds.

5a. MB: Is there really such thing as putting on too much weight (like 20 pounds)?

CD: I think so. It’s really hard for your body to move, and four months (of an offseason) is a really short time for your body to get adjusted to learning how to move again. It’s about pace, you have to be quick.

  1. MB: What makes you excited about this season?

CD: Change is always exciting. There’s more opportunity and a great chance to learn from someone else.

FYI: the Tips were at the AquaSox game spreading hockey (and, really, PNW) love. Both coaches delivered some solid tosses.

 

Reminder: training camp moves to the big ice inside XFINITY Arena on Friday. First matchup: a little past 8am.

Get your coffee ready.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is entering his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game.  Tweet at him here.